United Nations, Jul 13: Two Indians were among the seven young girls honoured with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education's Youth Courage Award for Education as part of 'Malala Day' celebrations at the world body.
Special awards were given to seven young girls from around the world for their courage and achievement to promote the cause of girl's education and dignity of women. Among them were two Indians, 21-year-old Ashwini from Bangalore and 15-year-old Razia from Uttar Pradesh who were awarded with UN Special Envoy for Global Education's Youth Courage Award for Education.
Malala's Pakistani friend Shazia, who was hurt when Taliban shot Malala last year, was also awarded along with girls from Bangladesh, Nepal, Morocco and Sierra Leone. Ashwini was awarded for fighting against odds to study, then using that education to campaign for other children with disabilities and to enable them to achieve the education they deserve.
She was born with a visual impairment. Ashwini was brought up in a poor rural community in Karnataka and fought circumstances to complete her Bachelors degree. She overcame the odds, achieved great grades and got an excellent job with an IT firm, but gave it up to campaign for other children with disabilities.
Ashwini now works for Leonard Cheshire Disability, a NGO based in Bangalore and she was accompanied to the function by Sherly Abraham, national coordinator of the Leonard Cheshire Disability to the Youth Assembly. Razia was feted for her contribution to education of children. She is a former child labourer who stitched footballs, struggled and succeeded to pull herself from exploitation to education.
She passed her 11th grade against all odds and now works in her community to help withdraw children from work, and enrol them in schools. Razia helped 48 children in her community last year to get out of work and join a school. Over 500 youngsters, mostly young girl leaders from around the world, convened at the UN to support Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's 'Global Education First Initiative' and its goals to ensure that all children, especially girls, are in school and learning by 2015.
Young delegates from around the world cheered Malala, who celebrated her 16th birthday and is now the face of child's right to education.
The Secretary General named Malala's 16th birthday, 'Malala Day', in honour of her heroic stand to ensure education for all. A series of events were organised to mark 'Malala Day' that included youth assembly, beginning of a youth movement to advocate global education and demanding world leaders to make universal, education for every child. Urmila, 22, of Nepal was awarded for her struggle in the field of girls' education.
She was sold as a kamalari (child servant) when she was six after her parents traded her to pay off their debts. She remained trapped for 12 years before she was finally allowed to visit her family when she learnt that the kamalari system was illegal. Urmila never went back and instead she set up Kamalari Girls' Freedom Forum and a group that have rescued thousands of girls and allowed them to go back to school.
The others who got the award included Shazia, 15, of Pakistan who was the best friend of Malala and was seated next to her in the school bus that was attacked last October. The escalating violence has meant it was no longer safe for her to be in Pakistan and she has recently moved to the UK to complete her schooling.
Raouia, 12, from Morocco was given the award for her fight for right to education and her struggle to achieve her goals. She was bold enough to tell the Moroccan Education Minister, "mind your business" when he visited a Marrakech school and told Raouia she would be better off leaving school and becoming a child bride.
"You, your time would be better spent looking for a man," he had told her. But Raouia stood up to him and stayed in school completing her studies. Her family also protested to the government about how the education minister had betrayed his obligation to promote education.
Keshob, 18, from Bangladesh won the award for her fight against child marriage. She is the chairman of 'Wedding Busters' a youth-led organisation that runs child marriage free zones in Bangladesh. Aminata, 20, from Sierra Leone received the honour for tirelessly campaigning to ensure that children in her country affected by conflict are able to get education.